I am sure we are all familiar with the current uproar over Hillary Clinton’s health and her reluctance to be forthcoming about her recent bout of pneumonia. Donald Trump refers to this as yet another example of “crooked Hillary” and there is plenty of worrisome head shakes in the media about why she would not admit to being ill. Trump himself revealed his own health records to… Dr. Oz. But forgot to really share them with the rest of the nation. Kind of like his IRS return. The Washington Post did take him to task. But now they are out.
But I am taken by the constant criticism of Clinton as secretive while her opponent ‘s choices to procrastinate or not answer questions are simply glossed over. Part of this might be due that Clinton has a long and established record in political positions where she could not be entirely open about what was happening. Note: Confidentiality is not automatically a sign of nefarious doings. But since she has tended to focus on issues and not herself, she has nevertheless received criticism from both sides. Who is the real Hillary, they ask?
But let’s step back and ask if there might not be another problem. Women have been viewed as secretive for centuries. “You cannot trust a woman” was a common mantra from biblical times (Eve caused it all) through the middle ages (women living alone were clearly witches) to more recent times (B.B. King.)
How did this deep mistrust of women originate? Perhaps in prehistoric times men realized that the magical power of women to bring forth children was countered by their own uncertainty as to whether they were the father. Women were at home all day; what did they do? You could try to control them, lock them up, forbid any access to the world without the man–but one could never be sure. Poetry and music abound in lyrics that bemoan the ways in which men cannot trust women. From Purcell to country music to rap, women are sneaky, unreliable, and will break your heart. Of course, to be fair, there are plenty of songs where women view men the same way. But history has always painted women as particularly distrustful. A cursory search reveals all sorts of collections of pithy comments by men about women.
But the problem may be broader than a fanciful historical take such as I offer above. Today we might argue that anyone who tries to keep his or her personal life private runs the risk of being accused of hiding something. Especially in politics. Women, however, have been schooled not to bring their personal into the workplace. ” Do not mention you have kids or they will see you as less dedicated.” is advice given to many women. Men never receive this admonishment. Granted–the health records of candidates for the most taxing and horrible job in the world, President of the United States, may be important to know up front. But then, why come down so vociferously on Clinton but not so much on Trump?
So we find ourselves with a twofold dilemma. Do we assume Clinton is hiding truths or lying because we unconsciously assume this is “women’s way?” And are we going too far in disallowing any public figure a measure of privacy wherein we do not have the right to know? Should anyone running for office have to reveal every little detail about their personal lives?